Meet our faculty members in Asian Studies and learn more about their background and passions! In this Faculty Spotlight, we introduce you to Dr. Ji-yoon An, our new Assistant Professor in Modern Korean Popular Culture! Prior to joining UBC, she had experience teaching and researching in Germany, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Could you tell us a little about your academic background prior to joining UBC Department of Asian Studies? What brought you to Asian Studies?
I would describe myself as a scholar of Korean studies with an interest in cultural trends and flows. My academic journey began in culture, not Asian Studies. I did an undergrad in Musicology, where I discovered my love for opera. But, soon I learnt that my interest was in the visuals of the stage rather than the music itself. This led me to pursue a Masters in Film and Screen Culture, from which I continued onto a PhD focusing on Korean Cinema. I transitioned to East Asian Studies/Korean Studies for my PhD, where I was able to gain a firm historical grounding for my cultural reflections.
My academic interests dwell mainly on Korea, where the relationship between (popular) culture and social changes remains my primary focus. Since receiving my PhD (University of Cambridge), I have gained experience teaching and researhcing in Germany (University of Tübingen), Singapore (Nanyang Technological University), and Hong Kong (University of Hong Kong). Each university experience has been invaluable, and I am very excited to expand my horizons to include North America!
What inspires you to teach?
When I was an undergrad, I had a fantastic supervisor whose efforts set me on the path of academia. Under his guidance for a short period of only a few months, I was able to learn not only how to do “academic writing” but also how to channel my interests into academic projects. Because his role in my current career path was so crucial, I am always reminded of the importance of professors and lecturers to inspire students. Imparting knowledge is important, but in a field like ours, I believe a more important duty is to foster critical thinking. This may lead to further education. However, the overall aim is not the degree but to encourage students to engage with culture and history with a global and informed outlook both inside and outside the lecture room. Nothing inspires me to teach more than seeing students become motivated and stimulated to learn more about our world and history. I look forward to such experiences at UBC!
Can you tell us what you will be teaching in the UBC Department of Asian Studies?
In the coming academic year, I will be teaching Introduction to Korean Cinema, which is a historical overview of how cinema entered and developed on the Korean peninsula. Upon completion of the course, students should have a thorough grasp of Korean cinema’s major developments alongside the country’s historical milestones, in addition to an understanding of the main debates in East Asian film studies. In the future, I hope to offer courses, such as Korean Popular Culture, Korean History through Film, Korean Society through K-Drama, Korean Diasporic Cinema, and perhaps also Monsters Around the World (one of my favourite genres).
What are some other interests you enjoy pursuing outside of your work?
I’m one of the lucky people in life whose hobby has become their job. My main interest continues to be watching films and television. I enjoy watching everything, from K-drama to Hollywood blockbusters, to indie arthouse dramas, to sci-fi shows, to anime etc. Beyond screen culture, I love travelling and I am a tad obsessed with my dog—a rescue from South Korea who has lived in three different countries. I look forward to introducing her to dog-friendly Vancouver!